Beekeepers Vs. Monsanto



Went to the Maine State Beekeepers Association annual meeting this past Saturday.   It was, as always, a wonderful informative, entertaining day.   On the organic beekeeping listserve that I belong to this came today.   I am sharing it to show that you do NOT want to mess with a bunch of riled up Beeks.

A Mexican judge won’t be bought off by the giant biotech company, Monsanto—
instead he honored the complaints of small bee-keepers and will stall the
growing season for Monsanto’s GM soybeans in Yucatán.
Published: October 20, 2014 | Authors: _Christina Sarich_
( | _Natural Society_
( | News Report

Honoring the complaints of a small group of beekeepers in the state of
Yucatán, who complained that Monsanto’s planned planting of thousands of
hectares of GM soybeans made to withstand RoundUp would demolish their honey
industry by decimating bees – a judge in Mexico has removed Monsanto’s
planting permit. Monsanto can install Clarence Thomas on the U.S.00 Federal Judge
circuit after working for their corporation, an obvious conflict of
interest, but it looks like a Mexican judge won’t be bought off by biotech.
Though _Monsanto will surely appeal the ruling_
( , it will at least stall the growing season and give
the bee-keepers time to gather additional support for their cause.
A district has overturned a permit issued to Monsanto by Mexico’s
agriculture ministry, Sagarpa, and environmental protection agency, Semarnat, back
in June 2012 that allowed commercial planting of _RoundUp-ready soybeans_
s.aspx) .
If the permit had been honored, Monsanto would have been able to plant
seeds in seven states, covering more than 253,000 hectares of land. (This
amounts to almost a million acres.) Mayan farmers, beekeepers, and activist
groups like Greenpeace, the Mexican National Commission for the Knowledge and
Use of Biodiversity, the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas,
and the National Institute of Ecology have been vocally protesting this
The judge was apparently convinced that the scientific data showing a link
between RoundUp, GMOs, and lowered honey production is very real. The
Yucatán peninsula grows vasts amounts of honey, and in fact is the third
largest exporter of honey to the world. The area includes Campeche, Quintana Roo,
and Yucatán states. More than 25,000 families build their livelihoods on
honey production. Almost all of the honey grown there is exported to the EU
and amounts to over $54 million in Mexican money annually.
The judge ruled that honey production and GM soybeans could not co-exist.
In addition to known health risks posed by GMO crops and the herbicides
used to grow them, there is also _environmental damage_
-health-and-the-environment/) to soil, water, and _bee colonies which are
( fast. There are also long term changes to the
ecosystems where GMOs are grown.
Since _a landmark decision in 2011_
( by the European court of justice
banned GM crop imports, GMO honey would likely not be accepted – similar
to how Syngenta’s GMO corn strains are now being refused in China when
exported from the U.S.
The ruling determined that honey derived from a GM crop would be
unapproved for human consumption.
This follows an _inaugural study conducted in Campeche_
( , where about 10,000
hectares of GM soybeans were planted after Monsanto’s permit was approved in
2012. GM pollen _was found_
in some honey samples destined for the European market.
Since bees pollinate vast tracts of land and could contaminate other crops
besides the GM crops planted, GM soy plantings also have more exponential
probability to cause damage.
The _Monsanto ruling was commended_
( by the respected national newspaper La Jornada, which
accused the Mexican government of ignoring widespread concerns over GMOs and
forcing bee keepers to fight it out in court with powerful multinational
companies who have deep pockets to make legal battles go on at length.
Central to the ruling was the Mexican constitution, specifically the
government’s obligation to fully consult indigenous communities before making
any major decision about what happens to their land and food.
It’s too bad our own governments have long overlooked the people’s wishes
regarding GM crops in the U.S.

Radio Victoria

I need to write about the folks from the CDC, FDA, and USDA getting food poisoning at their Food Safety Summit but today I want to repost from the Oxfam site.   This article reminds me that no matter how scary things get here, there are worse places to be an activist:


When a radio station helps fight poverty—and speaks the truth

September 29, 2014 By Chris Hufstader

Radio reporters in El Salvador face threats, but remain committed to their message.

If you have never thought of a radio station as a way to fight poverty, think again. Over the years I’ve worked at Oxfam I have visited and spoken with staff at community radio stations in Mali, Peru, and Mozambique. I’ve always found the work of these stations to be a fascinating and powerful means to promote development: They bring the voices of people in isolated places out into the media, make their concerns known to the powerful, and push for change.

These stations are driven by a community agenda, so they are different from most commercial media companies funded by businesses, or the government. The best community radios recruit reporters in villages in their listening area, train young people to become journalists, provide an important alternative to the government and corporate messages, and broadcast in local languages.

In some places, projecting the voice of the people when it is at odds with powerful interests can lead to conflict and tragedy. You don’t have to be reporting from a foreign war zone to face life-threatening danger. For community radio reporters in El Salvador, it comes to your home.

I’ve just met with staff at Radio Victoria in Cabañas, which has been under siege since it started reporting on a proposed gold mine in the region in 2006. In 2008, a mining company called Pacific Rim offered the station $8,000 a month to help them promote a “Green Mining” public relations campaign in Cabañas, designed to counter environmentalist critics concerned about water pollution and other potentially negative effects of the proposed mine.

“Okay, $8,000 would have solved a lot of problems for us,” says Elvis Zavala, one of the founders of the station after El Salvador’s civil war, when they had a small transmitter and an antenna on a bamboo pole. “We could pay staff and buy new equipment.” But the station had been researching Pacific Rim’s mining proposal and found that their listeners were against it—the station could not accept Pacific Rim’s money and be true to their mission.

According to Marisella Ramos, a 29-year-old married mother of a young daughter and a reporter at Radio Victoria, this was also the time that the station had been covering the work of a local environmental leader named Marcelo Rivera. He was leading protest marches and workshops to educate people in communities about the dangers of mining to local water sources like the Rio Titihuapa, which flows into the Rio Lempa, El Salvador’s main source of drinking water.

That was when the anonymous threats began. “We got messages that we were on death lists,” Ramos told me. “In June 2009, Marcelo disappeared. We assigned two reporters to investigate his disappearance, and the threats increased to the point that we had to take our staff out of the department [of Cabañas]. We got threats over the cell phone, letters slipped under the door of the radio station and at our homes.” Someone damaged the station’s transmission lines, and tried to knock down its antenna.
A mural of environmental activist Marcelo Rivera is on the town’s cultural center in San Isidro. He was an ardent critic of a proposal to mine for gold in Cabañas, and received numerous death threats before he was kidnapped, tortured, and killed in 2009.
Rivera’s body was found 12 days later at the bottom of a well. A woman I interviewed near the Titihuapa river, a friend of Rivera who did not want to be named in this story, told me he had been scalped, his face ripped off, and his penis cut off and put in his mouth. “This was to send a message,” she said, “to silence us.”

Radio Victoria’s media coordinator, who was frequently on air reporting on the search for Rivera, got so many threats she had to leave the country with her son, and is still in Europe today. Although she was worried to do so, Ramos took over the media coordination role. Every press release the station issued bore her name. She was the main speaker at press conferences. And the threats shifted to her.

The emails she and others received were signed “extermination group.” Sometimes, Ramos says, “There were long, obscene messages describing what happened to Marcelo, implying it could happen to me.” One message gave her a deadline of May 3, 2009, saying they would come for her and her daughter. “Friends took me away to another place,” Ramos says, saying it was a location she thought would be safe. “When I arrived I got a text message saying they knew where I was, and everyone panicked.”

Shortly after that Ramos and her daughter went to Ecuador for a few months. “I had to decide if I wanted to keep being a radio reporter,” she says, back in Victoria and reporting again. “A lot of my colleagues suffered these threats, but I came back and talked with them. We feel united and strong together.”
Elivs Zavala, Marisella Ramos, and Salvador Escobar of Radio Victoria discuss the threats issued to the staff of their community radio station. Escobar was one of the founders of the station. Photo: James Rodriguez / Oxfam America
The threats have trailed off recently, but the controversy around the proposed mine continues. Pacific Rim has not received a permit to start mining, and has sued the government of El Salvador for $301 million. It recently sold its interests to an Australian company called Oceana Gold, which is pursuing the suit in a special tribunal at the World Bank, where such “investor disputes” are settled. Radio Victoria’s listeners in Cabañas are also leading a movement to create legislation that would ban all metal mining in the country, and Oxfam is supporting a coalition that brings together all the groups in the country working on the mining ban.

Elvis Zavala says one of the scariest moments in the violent period also led to a sign of hope. It came on a day when just one staff person was at the station and they got a threat that it would be set on fire. Zavala and others said they called their friends, and there was immediately a group of people with machetes surrounding the station. “When we saw them at the station, we felt like we were not alone,” Zavala says. “They told me, ‘If they are going to burn the radio, they are going to have to kill us first.’”

Every radio station should have such dedicated listeners.

Posted in
Natural resources and rights, The power of people.

The Silly Season

September, the plants are going to sleep, harvest is well under way and the bounty in my kitchen threatens to overwhelm me.  Jars of pickles and dilly beans everywhere.   The holy harvest is hanging in the utility room.   Soon it will be time to bring in the herb plants and put the gardens to bed for the winter.   I have been spending some time lately trying, unsuccessfully so far, to rescue a hive of honeybees from the wall of the seeds warehouse at Fedco.  This really is my favorite time of year.

Oh and it is election season.   Or as one of the characters on the BBC version of “House of Cards” likes to call it:  the silly season.   And all politics is local so here is my take on the Waldo County Maine races.    Readers from-away may want to stop reading at this point.

Driving my favorite candidate, Brian Jones, around Knox while he knocks on doors  it doesn’t seem so silly.   He is connecting with his constituents yet again.   And they seem to like him.   His opponent is weak, at best, so I think he stands a really good chance of being our Representative again; which is great news for those of us who spend our time testifying before the Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.  We have several strong advocates on that committee but none who cut to the chase quite as well as Brian.

We have  several great candidates locally.    People who really care about the people they represent.   Jonathan Fulford,  Brian Jones,  Paige Brown.  Not people who just claim on 20 foot high billboards that they are “fighting for farmers.”   Well, Mike Thibodeau, I don’t know how you can claim to be fighting for farmers when you won’t even speak with them.   In fact you turn and walk away from them in the halls of the legislature.   It would be more honest to say you are “fighting for big agribusiness.”    You were one of only four senators to vote against the GMO labeling bill, an act that among other things would have aided the bottom-line of organic farmers.

Mike is a Tea Party Republican through and through.   But Jonathan is a hard-working, smart, dedicated person with great politics who is running an outstanding campaign.   Mike is running scared and I, for one, am grateful.  And besides I live and breathe this stuff.   Growing things is great fun but political action is the meaning of life for me.image

From the The Complete Patient: They Wonder Why People are Pissed?

More shenanigans in Michigan, notice the mention of Mark Baker (of Baker’s Green Acres)  seems they are going after his friends now.

by:David GumpertSat, 07/19/2014 – 20:11posted in:
Regulation,Food Club,Raw Milk,Resistance,

Jenny Samuelson was all set to do the deal dictated by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development: Dispose of nearly $5,000 worth of raw milk, cream, butter, eggs, and cheese. Under MDARD supervision, she was to bring the 250 gallons of milk to a neighboring farm, where the farmer would use it for fertilizer. The 10 gallons of cream and 20 pounds of butter would go in a dumpster. And the 100 dozen beautiful unwashed and unrefrigerated pastured eggs (raised without soy feed) would be smashed and turned into compost.

She would also discontinue all deliveries of cream and butter to herdshare members, despite their serious unhappiness about losing access to these foods.

But then the MDARD agents canceled out on the Saturday morning arrangements whereby they would observe the disposal of the food. They then said they would show up Monday morning. So she waits, and ponders her options.

Samuelson is pretty upset, as you might expect. She was trying to be an obedient citizen so she could have unfettered access to her refrigerated delivery truck and resume deliveries of raw milk. She had made the hard decision to go against what she feels is right and just, because she didn’t want to risk any further interruption in deliveries for the more than 600 families around Michigan that depend on her food.

She is still smarting from last Tuesday’s raid on her delivery truck in Washington Township, which saw agents from MDARD swarm aboard the delivery truck while it was stopped in a private parking lot, with her brother as driver. She thinks they had been following her and the truck for a number of day beforehand, and picked last Tuesday morning to do the raid instead of when she was driving, because they knew her brother likely wouldn’t know to demand a search warrant, and the presence of the local sheriff or police before being allowed (or possibly not being allowed) to take people’s food.

They told her brother it would take an hour to look through the Co-Op’s inventory—instead it took six-and-a-half hours.

Later, the MDARD told her she was prohibited from giving the food to a farmer as feed for his pigs, since she didn’t have a feed license.

Perhaps most significant, she doesn’t feel they had the right to prevent the food from being delivered in the first place. “They didn’t seize my products,” she says. “They seized the consumers’ products.”

Samuelson has been doing this drill for more than six years–during which time her co-op has grown from 20 members to more than 600– and knows the rules well. She says the cream and butter the MDARD was supposedly targeting were produced separately by the farmer from milk the members obtained as herdshare members, under contract to them individually. She also faults the special policy group that agreed with the MDARD last year in its policy statement that sanctioned herdshares for raw milk, but disallowed other raw dairy products. “I wasn’t allowed to have a voice in that,” despite her requests.

She wanted to feed the condemned food to Mark Baker’s pigs, or some other pigs, but state ag reps had told her she couldn’t feed the food to farm animals because she didn’t have a feed permit, and insisted the food be destroyed with MDARD agents watching.

Baker is the Michigan farmer who continued raising pigs the state considered wild, and he got the state to agree that he could continue raising the pigs after he sued the the Department of Natural Resources. He had a planned “Constitution Hall” program on slate for Sunday, at which Richard Mack, the former Arizona sheriff, will be discussing how the U.S. has veered from upholding its Constitution. Baker will be talking about his plans to run for Missaukee County sheriff. And there will be a pig roast for the many attendees expected.

Samuelson is going to have some very unhappy members based on her decision to refrain from delivering the raw cream and butter. “They are very pissed,” she says.

She is encouraging them to sue the state much like Mark Baker did. In the meantime, she is encouraging them to flood the MDARD with calls. Here are people she urges her members and sympathizers to contact:

Kevin Besey, director of the Food and Dairy Division, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (phone 517-582-1156 or e-mail

Tim Slawinski, Compliance Manager, Food and Dairy Division (phone 517-420-5364 or e-mail

In a letter to her members Saturday, she said: “The only way we can get cream and butter back is to WIN this war! You the people can do it!”

(This post was revised on Sunday, July 20, to update the situation.)

Home Again

I have such great respect for activists who do this all the time.   Leave home, sleep in strange beds, spend their days talking and talking and talking.   Networking, doing the work.  I want to do the work but I am so reluctant to leave my little homestead to do it.   I know how important it is to go and meet in person with other people trying to change the world but I just wish they would all come here.   Maybe I can figure out the Helen and Scott Nearing approach and get like-minded folks to make the pilgrimage to my little corner of the universe.   Maybe not.

But most importantly when I got home all of my baby chicks were thriving.   My non-farmer son who had been tending them for me said they had been eating like miniature vultures.   He had a hard time keeping their food troughs full.   How lucky am I to have this wonderful support system?   Very!

So home again, home again, riggety jig.   Back to the center of my universe and to a part of my life that is grounding and positive and, most importantly, here.    Oh, and my neighbor took care of the overly brazen fox who had eaten all my adult chickens and was starting in on his, in spite of his five dogs.


Final Day(s)

Went to “A Network Approach to Collective Impact: The Vermont Farm to Plate Story” yet another fantastic workshop.  I thought I knew this story, but I didn’t.   Go to their website, their Food System Atlas.  Very, very detailed and complex but as I have learned over the course of these two days (has it really been only two days, seems much, much longer) complexity is not our enemy.  As Marta Ceroni said this morning we have been over simplifying far too long.  We need to wrestle with the complexities of this mess in which we find ourselves.

So if you can go ahead and watch the live stream of the closing session.  If it is half as good as the rest of the weekend has been it will be worth your time.

Oh, and the title, it is a sad pun on the fact that we may be living in the final days.   As Ed Whitfield said at the beginning of this weekend:  the planet is going to survive us.   But we may not survive US!


I’m tired and really not as discouraged as this post might suggest.   Maybe I am just so tired I am being silly, you decide.

2nd Installment

Hi, there still here at CommonBound!   The second workshop I attended this morning was about storytelling.   Here is what I learned.  The five elements of a good story: conflict, characters (hero, villain, victim), imagery/show don’t tell, foreshadowing, underlying assumption.    Very, very good workshop.   A few good exercises.  “People will only go where they have first been in their minds (and I would add in their hearts).”   The presenter , Christine Cordero from the Center for Story Based Strategy, (gotta love that their website is called “beautifultrouble”) very dynamic young woman.   A workshop that was well worth my time and worth sitting in a very crowded room full of sweaty people.

So I was sitting here eating lunch and writing this blog and I hear a group of folks behind me talking about working with their state agriculture committee and the GMO labelling bill.   Turned around and put in my two cents worth.   In the first workshop I attended this morning a question was asked about “right sizing” regulation in the banking and food industry.   The panelist could answer the banking piece but I spoke up about the food sovereignty movement and our efforts in Maine to get legislation passed that regulates small farms differently from big agribusiness.   This weekend is all about serendipity and being where you are, when you are with whatever information you may have and sharing that with the folks around you.    It’s a great concept.

Oh, and we got a video greeting from Elizabeth Warren.   Very nice.


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